07 April 2005

Get a Grip (Update)

Attorney Ronald Coleman at Likelihood of Confusion, an intellectual property blog, has posted concerning the noise Major League Baseball has made about licensing its player statistics to fantasy sports leagues and players, an issue of which I wrote previously. Coleman characterizes MLB's plan as "[u]tterly idiotic" and "[f]abulously obnoxious" and quotes the similar conclusions of Greg Skidmore at the Sports Law Blog:
Statistics are facts, nothing more, and can be disseminated as freely as can news stories. It is unclear how extending copyright to statistics would not also impact newspapers, television stations and commercial websites that also report baseball statistics. Baseball's methods for "compiling" these statistics consists of the advanced mathematical functions of addition and averaging.
In response to a comment I made, however, Coleman noted that another attorney in his office was familiar with this kerfuffle and believed that MLB's comments might have been misreported and that their claim "is really based on the right of publicity in the player personalities licensed to the league by the ML[B]PA [the Major League Baseball Players Association, the players' union representatives]." If so, that would complicate things somewhat, but I think MLB would still be facing an uphill battle. My comments are available on Coleman's blog, so I won't reproduce them here; suffice to say, MLB isn't helping themselves legally by confusing the protectable (players' rights to control use of their personalities) with the unprotectable (raw statistics produced as byproducts of games).


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